Supper Club, Lara Williams
I am struggling to write this review as I think this might be my favourite book of the year yet. Lara Williams’ Supper Club is her debut and it’s been on my list since publication. I got an email saying it was just out in paperback which prompted this read, but actually it came out last year so I’m confused but happy - so goddamed happy - to have read it. In 2019 it won The Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize and it is fucking brilliant and hilarious and also terrible and sad.
Protagonist Roberta is nearing thirty and has a boring job writing copy in a fashion firm. Here she befriends Stevie and they become flatmates, best friends and rebels together. Roberta doesn’t have many friends, and we find out in flashbacks to her university days that she never has, but with Stevie she sets up their ‘supper club’ where women can come together to feast on food and drugs and let their minds expand along with their waistbands. They have binges and food fights, theming their banquets and preparing each at length together. As the supper club premise evolves, we learn more about what has hurt Roberta in the past.
Using food as medicine is universal and universally understood, and cooking and eating as a radical, feminist act is not a new one, but Williams is supremely talented. Her story is quirky, moving, thorough. Her language is new at every turn. She climbs into the inner ears of her characters’ anxieties, even when they’re doing the most mundane of things. She makes us laugh when we should be banging our head against a wall.
She also takes time out of the narrative to give full attention to the descriptions of food and cooking. They are part of the story and character-building, but it still feels bold to give the space she does to food, five or six pages to a single loaf for example. I love it.
I read this book on a Kindle edition in which every instance of ‘ff’ and ‘fi’ is elided, which was annoying for the first two pages and then afterwards easy to overlook because it’s such a brilliant story. We are all hungry, and we must feed that hunger, find out how to exist. Enjoy it and accept it.